pEOPLING OF THE aMERICAS SUNSET - 1Since the discovery in 1926 of a stone spear point in embedded in the remains of a mammoth near Clovis, New Mexico, it has been asserted that the Americas were first populated by Asian peoples passing through the ice free corridor known as Beringia around 12,000 BC. After a hiatus of 12,000 years, along came Columbus. NEARA members think that there is a much larger and more complex story to tell.



 Stephen C. Jett
University of California, Davis

The question as to whether there were significant interinfluences between the Old and the New worlds before Christopher Columbus and Leif Ericson has generated debate, often rancorous, for generations. Having examined the evidence and the pro and con arguments and having given that evidence and those arguments a great deal of thought over half a century, I have firmly concluded that transoceanic contacts between the two hemispheres go back millennia in time and had profound impacts on the cultures (and habitats) of both, especially the Western. Resolving this question is one of the most important tasks for culture historians, because the issue has profound implications not only for reconstruction of the true history of humankind but also for our overall understanding of the nature of human creativity and of how culture change occurs.

Those of us who have proposed that these kinds of ancient travels across the wide waters really took place and that their impacts were substantial are frequently confronted by extreme skepticism on the part of those who adhere to the mainline academic and popular supposition that such interaction between the peoples of the two sides of the Atlantic and the Pacific was impossible, and who may also object to the concept on other grounds. Accordingly, I have developed a “catechism” consisting of the isolationists’/independent-inventionists’ objections and by the transoceanic diffusionists’ appropriate responses. (The factual bases for these responses are not documented in this short note.) It is hoped that presenting these thoughts in this organized form will be useful for those debating the issue.

 By Stephen C. Jett, NEARA Journal, Vol. 46 No.1, Summer, 2012

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Peopling of the Americas - Resources



 Riley, Carroll L., J. Charles Kelley. Campbell W. Pennington and Robert L. Rands, eds. 1971. Man Across the Sea, Problems of Pre- Columbian Contacts . Austin & London, University of Texas Press,

Gilmore, Donald Y. and Linda S. McElroy eds. 1998. Across Before Columbus? Evidence for Transoceanic Contact with the Americas prior to 1492,.Edgecomb, Main NEARA,

Stephen C. Jett, 2007 Crossing Ancient Oceans. PreColumbian Contact in America

February 2, 2007 0387950060 978-0387950068 1
Did the Polynesians, Chinese and others make contact with North American civilizations in prehistoric times? For many years, this question was as close to taboo as you could get in anthropology: even to ask it was to risk labeling oneself a racist. Now, however, hard physical evidence of such contact has mounted to the point where it is difficult to ignore.This groundbreaking work, by the single most prominent scholar on the subject of pre-Columbian contact, is sure to be controversial and will cause the standard textbooks of North American prehistory to be rewritten. Stephen Jett covers the maritime capabilities of Far Eastern and Oceanic peoples, the physical evidence for contact, and the cultural similarities between New and Old World civilizations that had previously been explained away. This is an important book that will force a reassessment of the entire picture of North American prehistory.

About the Author

Stephen C. Jett, Professor Emeritus of Textiles and Clothing at the University of California at Davis, has had a long-standing interest in the early history of textile and dyeing technology, particularly with reference to cultural diffusion. He was also the editor of Pre-Columbiana, a journal dedicated to the search for early contacts between the old and new worlds. This is his first book.



FIRSTAMERICANSsmActually the first points found in undisputed connection with an extinct animal was in Folsom, NM in 1908. Not until an excavation was done in 1926 was a broken spear point found in connection with the extinct giant bison. Soon after more of the distinctive fluted points were found near Clovis, NM under mammoth bones and the name Clovis has since been applied to this culture that had developed a life style enabling it to prosper and spread.

The typical Clovis point has a “flute” that can only be made by a very experienced flint knapper at the end of the process. Evidence of an unusual technique called “overshot” results in a very thin cross section. As more sites with this distinctive culture
were being found in the Southeast more questions remained unanswered about how humans could have survived in the period during and after the melting of the glaciers in the “ice free' corridor. Tundra like conditions do not provide food for either people or animals and yet Monte Verde was discovered near the tip of South America with a 14,000 year old date.

The new book by Dennis Stanford and Bruce Bradley, Across Atlantic Ice, the Origin of America's Clovis Culture presents a powerful argument for their hypothesis that during the Late Glacial Maximum (LGM) about 18,000, people from the Solutrean culture of Spain and France brought with them a stone tool technique that spread across the continent and developed into the Clovis culture.

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As the ice melted, historians and archaeologists talk of immigrants moving north into the newly exposed rich northern tundra both in Europe and North America, but it was not until Norwegian archaeologist, Guthorm Gjessing an ardent diffusionist noticed a striking similarity between the cultural remains in Norway and the Maritime Archaic or Red Paint people of Maine and the Canadian Maritimes that the Atlantic rim connection was made. Style and techniques of worked stone and the use of skin boats for deep sea fishing and red ochre in burials were common. Impossible, some say, but others- usually those with salt in their blood- think otherwise and see the fish laden pack ice as a bridge not a barrier to traveling around the North Atlantic rim.

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Among the first to test the icy boreal waters of the North Atlantic was the astronomer, Pytheas of Marseilles, who ventured to Ultima Thule and witnessed the sea turning into “thick gray sludge”. Roman merchants no doubt ventured into the North Atlantic, but only Tacitus left an account of Agricola’s men subduing the Orkneys. Caesar commented on the construction and seaworthiness of Gaelic ships.

ACROSS-PACIFIC- boatWe have long wondered at the Polynesian sailing ability, but not until Thor Heyerdahls' KonTIki voyage, did we accept that our human ancestors could have made such a journal.

Heyerdahl believed that pre-Columbian people from South America could have settled Polynesia, although many anthropologists believed that it was impossible. His aim in mounting the Kon Tiki expedition was to show, by using only the materials and technologies available in the remote past, that there were no technical reasons to prevent such travel and He ultimately proved that the raft could make the journey.

Over the years other researchers have pondered the migrations and appearence of materials, both manmade and natural, which could never have survived an ocean drift of such a disdance

Betty Meggers found 6,000 year old Japenese Jomon pottery techniques replicated in Ecuador,  Steve Jett, southeast Asian beaten bark cloth techniques. Carl Johannessen found America Maize carved on Stupa's of the Punjab, while George Carter demonstrated the Mexicans were beting blue eggs from Chinese Chickens. Nancy Yaw Davis found enimatic traits in the Zunis and proposed  that they derived from 16th century Japan, once more demonstrating that the Pacific Ocean was a bridge not a barrier across the Pacific.

VM irish monks and vikings- 2 copyBut it was 925 AD before Dicuil, an Irish monk records that his brethren had been visiting Thule for many years. He gives a description of that barren land that leaves little doubt that he is referring to Iceland. Saint Brendan’s sixth century Atlantic shuttles are set down in the twelfth century Navigato Sancti Brendani Abbati. Even Farley Mowat’s speculation in his book the Farfarers, of the westward trail of the fictitious Albans presents  very plausible candidates for the white robed men of Vitramannaland, also known as Albana or Ireland the Great which lies somewhere near Vinland.
The Vikings took to the sea very early and they traveled far and wide, to Miklagård, the great city of Constantine, while the West Vikings, the scourge of Europe, swarmed over the islands of the North Atlantic and up the Seine to Paris. By 874 Iceland had been “discovered and the adventurous Norse ranges farther west to Greenland and the illusive Vinland around 1000 AD.
The North Atlantic voyager who should be considered the discoverer of the New World was Gunbjorn, who fell afoul of Iceland and emerged from the fog on the rocky skerries off the east coast of Greenland sometime in the late ninth century. The sequel to Gunbjorn is told in both the Greenlander’s saga and Erick’s saga which tell of Bjarne Herjolfsson’s wind and fog-swept coasting west of his intended Greenland landfall. Leif Erickson later followed his wake but naming his own landfalls, Helluland, Markland and Vinland the Good. Thorfinn Karlsefni attempted permanent settlement at Hop in Vinland. Constant skirmishes with the natives contributed to the abandonment of Hop after three years and the saga record retreats into relative silence on the Vinland activities. Attempts to interpret the Zeno map and Nicholo Zeno’s 16th century report of his ancestor’s westward explorations with the Earl of Orkney have occupied English speaking investigators since its publication by Hakluyt in 1582. The leading candidate for the identity of the Orkney leader is Henry Sinclair, Earl of the Norse controlled Orkney Islands. The controversy continues with contemporary members of Clan Sinclair Henry’s greatest champions. Following the Da vinci Code a spate of Templar related books have proliferated.
Other than brief references by the saga men and rune carvers, we are left with a few Atlantic coast clam shells found in a Danish midden, a chunk of Rhode Island anthracite coal found in Greenland, a Norse penny in a native context in Maine and a Norse spindle whorl in the artifact collection unearthed at L’Anse aux Meadows, in Newfoundland for verified physical evidence.

There continues to be speculation that Northern Europeans continued sailing around the North Atlantic rim throughout the medieval period. Fur, so nefish furs and fortunecessary for cold climate clothing was scarcer and scarcer to find. Fishing grounds, especially for the cod that fed an expanding population was pushed farther and farther west into the Atlantic and the lure of great wealth provided ample motivation for daring adventurers.

Columbus’ “discovery “of a new world across the Atlantic set off a race throughout Europe to exploit the riches, subdue the native populations and settle the vast uncharted continent. The Portuguese, Corte Real in collaboration with the Danish crown explored the north east coast of North America during the turn of the century around 1500. The list has grown rapidly, Sebastian Cabot, a contemporary of Corte Real, Basque, Breton and Norman fisherman were scouring the North Atlantic banks for cod. By 1511 a “gentleman of the Azores” established a soap factory somewhere along the maritime coast in 1520. Then came Verrazano in 1524-27 with Jacques Cartier in1541, while fish stations were multiplying for process fish and whale oil in the 1530s. As the century wore on, the English and French competed to secure settlements and land grants throughout the future colonies.

Fourteen years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, followers of George Popham began construction of a permanent settlement on the Maine coast. By 1630 the slow trickle of adventurers had emerged into the British and French Colonies of North American and a new future.